(out of 4)
Directed by Jason Reitman
1 hour 34 mins
From Paramount Pictures
Mary Beth Hurt
The thing that is problematic about this film is that the main character is so unlikeable. Is Charlize Theron rechanneling her Monster role? I did not like her from the first scene but presumed that she would get it together midway through. That didn’t happen. I am discounting a little stab at redemption at the film’s conclusion… too little too late.
Theron is one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses and she adds so much to it here… conceit, unkindness, alcoholism, rudeness, control, condescension, manipulation, lack of integrity… shall I go on? She is virtually never offscreen so how can one like the film when one doesn’t such a lead character?
This was directed by Jason Reitman and scribbled by Academy Award-winning writer Dakota Cody, the same team that brought us the highly-acclaimed (and I think just a tad over-rated) Juno. If this is truly a page out of Ms. Cody’s life, I am a little astonished she would want the world to know about it. And they tag this as a comedy-drama. You’d be a little hard-pressed to find much comedy.
I see Young Adult in two parts although they are interwoven. All you really need to know about it is seen in the previews. She finds out that her long-ago boyfriend (who looks very much like a scruffy Patrick Wilson) has become a father and she heads off to the hometown where he lives and where she used to live to snatch him out of the arms of the wife and life that he loves. Damn the consequences and full hormones ahead.
She is admonished time and again by another old acquaintance who becomes the conscience of our film. He provides about the only laughs and is winningly played by Patton Oswalt. I do think that developments in their relationship are a bit over the top, but I’ll overlook ragging on that scene for another one.
Played out at a party for the new baby is a scene that I think was embarrassing certainly for the characters and in my opinion also for the actors and the writers. And if that event truly happened in my life, I don’t think I would show my face again in North America.
The second issue is something I know a little more about and while this, too, was over the top, it struck a chord in me and took me back to yesteryear. When one longs to move from the little one-horse town of one’s birth and the dream actually comes true, surprise and elation often turn to a snottiness. That is unbearable to others when one returns for a visit. This woman left a small, provincial Minnesota town for a larger Minnesota town. I left a small Illinois town to move to Los Angeles and the differences were profound. On my earliest return visits, Mr. California was a bit too slick and sunglassed and full of himself. (It has been years since I dumped my haughty demeanor and I quite like the old hometown today. I am not living there again but I did return to the Midwest.)
As I was having dinner after seeing this film, it occurred to me that I have now seen two films in a row with lead roles showcasing predators. Brandon in Shame was textbook; Mavis perhaps not as obvious but predatory nonetheless. So why is it that I had more energy on her? It's because Brandon wasn’t really hurting anyone but himself; Mavis was hurting everyone in her path, whether she knew them or not. That is why I disliked this character. That bumper sticker is right… mean people do suck.
But I am so over her now. It’s just a movie, after all.
NEXT POST: Review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo